This is a series of Political Strategy Reviews where we pick data from the MTS Election Tracker and do a 360 degree analysis of a political party’s social media activity.We have used Konnect Social to track the data.
The Indian National Congress founded in 1885, is by far the largest and one of the oldest democratically operating political parties in the world. The party’s modern liberal platform is largely considered to be on the Centre-left of the Indian political spectrum in contrast to the right-wing Bharatiya Janta Party.
Before Independence, Indian National Congress was seen as a proactive proponent to the Indian Independence Movement. After Independence in 1947, Congress emerged as the nation’s dominant political party. In the 15 General Assembly elections since independence, Congress has won an outright majority on 6 occasions and has led the ruling coalition 4 times. So the party has spearheaded the Central Government for a total of 49 years.
In the last General Assembly elections held in 2009, 206 Congress candidates got elected to the 543 member house as a result Congress led coalition of political parties called the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was able to gain a majority and form the government. The party in the recent times is facing flak from the masses over allegations of widespread corruption, inflation, economic turmoil which has led to the formation of a strong anti-incumbency factor against the party prior to the General Assembly Elections due by May 2014.
After years of ignorance and disdain, the Congress Party has now woken up to the fact that there is a world which interacts with politics through social media. While the opposition Bharatiya Janta Party and Aam Aadmi Party have banked upon the importance and relevance of social media for connecting with the masses, engaging with them using a 360 degree approach the Congress party still follows a very simple and straight forward strategy on social media.
The Congress party started with organized and planned social media operations in mid-2013 after realizing that in the race to win over netizens in India, Narendra Modi led BJP is miles ahead of them. Following the postulate of â€˜itâ€™s never too lateâ€™ party joined the social media bandwagon by launching a Facebook page , a twitter handle , reworking the website , YouTube channel , volunteers platform Khidkee , Whatsapp and line extensions.
The party’s communication online is aimed at building a culture of positive, polite and dignified engagement over serious political issues. The volunteers and supporters for the party on social media have been instructed by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi to keep the social media discourse respectful. To add to it Mr. Gandhi mentioned that every Congress supporter should reject abuse, not by returning that, but by countering it with facts.
This review will be a walkthrough to the social media strategy adopted by the ruling party in India, Indian National Congress. The references used in the article might date back to an year or so but the data used would not be more than 15 days old.
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Fans and Followers
In a short span of time Congress has managed to build a comprehensive presence across the vital social media networks i.e Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube. On Facebook the party has 2 million fans with 1.8 million talking about this but still Congress lags behind the principal opposition BJP which has 2.5 million fans. The party has the second highest number of fans on Facebook leading ahead of Aam Aadmi Party which has 1.6 million fans.
On Twitter, the INCIndia twitter handle lags behind both the competitors with 137k followers this can be attributed to the late beginning of social media journey for the party. To support the movement for Congress online they have influential twitter handles like Dr Shashi Tharoor (2.11 million followers) , Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh (1.13 million followers) to name a few.
Apart from the above mentioned politicians the party has several spokespersons, state/youth/women congress twitter handles with good number of followers online to assist them in the objectives of their social media campaigns.
On Youtube, Congress again lags behind the competitors BJP and Aam Aadmi Party with a huge margin they just have 5208 subscribers on Youtube with an aggregate of 8 million views till date but the party is picking up slowly on the platform by sharing videos with several themes like A Billion and One Voices, TVC’s on the lines of their new positioning Har Haath Shakti Har Haath Tarakki, Know your MP and UPA Achievement.
Besides this the party also shares speeches from Mr. Rahul Gandhi, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, PM Manmohan Singh and event coverage from various rallies and interactions that happen across the country.
The party also organizes webcasts on issues of national importance in association with NIC and Government of India. One such webcast on theme of Agenda for future, Education and Nation Building was organized on 15th of Feb 2014 , another version of a similar webcast was organized on 26th of Feb 2014. The party also showcases its youtube channel as INC TV on its website with categories like Economy, History, Politics, Public Affairs, Public values etc.
On Google+ Indian National Congress Page has 5110 +1â€™s and 1000 people in circles leading ahead of both the competitors BJP and AAP. The partyâ€™s communication on Google+ is in sync with the posts on Facebook. Congress has never utilized Google Hangouts to the best of its capabilities in the recent times they have just organized a Hangout with Sheila Dikshit prior to Delhi Elections held in December 2013.
The Indian National Congress Party is the only political party in India to be present on Instagram officially. The party understands the potential the art of storytelling with pictures to a target audience which is addicted to the platform. Though the party has just made 64 posts till date, the party has 288 followers on Instagram and looks to leverage the latest in trend social media platform for its advantage.
Apart from the above mentioned social media entities Congress also nurtures a habitat for the vast network of people working at the grassroots. Khidkee is a party owned platform aimed to bridge the gap between the people working at various levels and to keep the channels of communication open for all.
In other mobile marketing initiatives , Congress Party uses a line extension 1-800-208-2020 , BBM Pin 74835AFE and Whatsapp 9911984000 or 8398989898 for different purposes like calling out for suggestions to be included in the INC manifesto , connect with volunteers from various cities and provide them content feeds.
Content Strategy and Engagement
The Indian National Congress in a reactive approach to the online popularity and reach of opposition party BJP launched well organized and planned social media strategy to meet up several objectives which assist the party in their overall offline campaign prior to General Assembly elections 2014. The party was a bit late to realize that every single voter counts in a fractious electoral democracy like India and 190 million internet users is not a number to be ignored and disdained.
According to Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi, there are multiples prongs to the social media strategy adopted by the party. To counter negative and misleading propaganda of political opponents and their mouthpieces.
- To inform and convince the undecided voter to support partyâ€™s policies and programmes.
- To bridge the gap between supporters & senior leaders and open up communication channels.
- To convert supporters into committed workers of the party.
- To guide, update and enthuse the core party workers to fulfil political goals of the party.
With the multipronged strategy the party intends to connect with more people online across multiple platforms and engage with them in a polite and informed discussion. The core idea here is to reach out to unexplored constituencies. With the fact check initiative the party wants to counter and denounce the claims made by Narendra Modi and BJP.
Khidkee the window of opportunities is aimed at bringing all the supporters of the party under one common umbrella and motivate them towards the ultimate goal of winning the 2014 General Elections comprehensively. The party is thus taking every single worker along at every step, and acknowledging their contribution to the party.
At the onset of the launch of social media strategy for the party Rahul Gandhiâ€™s message was simple. Congress party stands for Love and Truth. Citing Buddhism is an example, he said if individuals in this country have the ability to take the message of peace and nonviolence to countries as far as Japan and South Korea. The Congress party must adopt honest and respectful language even to counter its critics.
The Congress party’s approach to social media is very simple and straight forward. The Content Strategy for the party revolves around covering events/rallies as they happen , fact Check to denounce the growth and development claims by Narendra Modi and BJP , powerful quotes extracted from the speeches of Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and PM Manmohan Singh, UPA achievements, greetings/testimonials on several occasions, aggressive posts to attack the opposition PM Candidate Narendra Modi. The party’s content on Facebook and Google+ is almost similar while the communication on twitter is tailored according to the medium.
On Facebook, INC utilizes the feature of cover pictures brilliantly. The cover pictures usually depict a message from the Congress Vice President Mr. Rahul Gandhi or quotes from prominent leaders even agenda for meetings, event pictures, info graphics comparing parameters in NDA and UPA reign are put up as cover pictures. The current cover picture features Rahul Gandhi meeting the youth along with the motto for this year’s electoral campaign Voice, Opportunity, Transparency and Empowerment for all.
When it comes to overall post strategy , the party’s communication is very touchy and tries to connect with the people using an emotional appeal “Policies have to be framed to benefit poor” says Rahul Gandhi along with an album containing pictures of his meet with the rural folks
Other posts include pictures depicting the vision of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party
Then there are posts which take potshots at the opposition, comparing the party’s brighter prospects and denouncing the claims of development in Gujarat by BJP and Narendra Modi
The party has propounded a range of initiatives to touch upon the lives of people spending their time on Facebook. Some of them are A Billion and One Voice, UPA Transparency Revolution which talks about the introduction of RTI and how it strives for betterment and excellence in governance. The graphics posted on the page are very neat and classic with the footer for facebook address or Har Haath Shakti Haar Haath Tarakki
Facebook Page also has a support us app which calls out for help from the volunteers as well as supporters of the party. Apart from the above mentioned posts the content from the party also focuses on the achievements in the UPA reign, party’s stand over recent issues and controversies, reinforcing the image of secularism, spreading the message of love and peace, solidarity with people from different sects of the society.
The Engagement figures for the party on Facebook explains how compelling content finds its own way gone are the days when Consumer is the king held true , the recent era is that of Content Marketing where in Content is the king. The reason behind the exceptional growth and engagement for Congress on Facebook is the content which they post.
The content bucket contains a mix of positive posts, event coverage, aggressive digs at the opposition, tributes, testimonials the form of content also varies from high definition info graphics, print ads, and real time pictures to beautifully crafted videos.
While the Facebook page is sprouting with content with higher engagement numbers the party is underutilizing the community of followers by giving out minimal opportunities for a two way interaction although the INC Manifesto was an interesting way to crowd source suggestions, views and opinions for election manifesto but apart from that there is no major event on Facebook which calls out for participation from the followers.
Indian National Congress on Twitter has less number of followers on Twitter as compared to the opposition but the party has weaved a good network of twitter handles to propagate their message loud and clear. The party at several occasions has utilized hashtags in a superb fashion.
The hashtag #RGExposesBJP was launched on as a pre cursor to Rahul’s rally in Gujarat where in the supporters blatantly criticized Modi and BJP for allegedly false claims regarding Gujarat’s development. Similarly the #KattarSochNahiYuvaJosh was leveraged to the best of its potential for disseminating content which can help the party in influencing the undecided voters.
— INC India (@INCIndia) March 11, 2014
There is a common tone and theme of communication for all the social media networks, the posts are tailored as per the medium. Here again the party posts include fact check on Gujarat and NDA, UPA Achievements, impressive quotes from Rahul Gandhi, Smt. Sonia Gandhi and other prominent leaders. An interesting thing Twitter handle for INC India is that they use the promote feature to increase the number of followers. The promote feature is also used for the prominent leaders of the party. The party also manages to hijack trends from the opposition and post content which compares the two.
— INC India (@INCIndia) March 13, 2014
— INC India (@INCIndia) March 11, 2014
— INC India (@INCIndia) March 6, 2014
The party uses hashtags for every rally , interaction featuring Rahul Gandhi with hashtags like #RGinUP, #RGinAssam. Hashtags are used to promote his plans , policies over various issues like education (#RG4Education) , soldiers and national security (#RG4Soldiers) , peace (#RG4Peace). Rahul Gandhi nowadays trends almost every day and was the most mentioned politician for a few days after his frankly speaking interview with Arnab Goswami #RGspeaksArnab
Although the party was late to catch up on twitter but the party has been able to build a community of supporters and volunteers who write in favor of the party and defends the party’s stance on twitter. As they say every action has an equal and opposite reaction the party supporters manage to counter anti congress trends with their content. The party also managed to integrate their twitter campaign online with the offline on ground activity on a couple of occasions thus expanding the reach altogether.
The engagement levels for the party on twitter have increased quite a number of times. All this can be attributed to the sustained efforts by the party in laying down the social media strategy. On 25th of Feb the engagement level was the highest owing to Rahul’s rallies and interactions in Assam with #RGinAssam, #RG4Education.
Another spike was observed on 1st of March when Rahul visited UP for another round of interaction with the common people right from rickshaw pullers to street vendors the #RGinUP during this time frame. On 6th of March, the engagement levels for the twitter handle shot up as Rahul Gandhi visited Mumbai and vernacular #AamchaRahul did a great job in reaching out to the people of Mumbai with fact checks, posts on women empowerment , posts promoting peace and harmony.
The engagement levels of Congress Party’s twitter handle are slightly higher as compared to the opposition BJP but the party lags behind Aam Aadmi Party. The reason behind relatively higher engagement levels is the coordinated synergy of social media accounts for Congress all the accounts converge towards one central point i.e INC India. Moreover the party makes the most out of the influential twitter handles from the politicians associated with it leading to high number of mentions and timeline deliveries for the content posted by the party.
The Youtube channel for Congress has 5,208 subscribers, with 8 million views registered till date. The Channel is the home to a collection of 512 videos which reiterates the fact that party was too late to start with their social media campaigning. The collection of videos is a wonderful mix including One Billion and a voice series containing stories of people who feel empowered in the 10 year reign of UPA, then there are videos of the TV commercials of the party which emphasize on the new positoning “har haath shakti har haath tarakki”,
Excerpts of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi’s Speeches, videos demystifying the claims of growth and development by Narendra Modi, Videos depicting UPA’s achievements , videos talking about youth empowerment , woment empowerment , transparency and Rajiv Gandhi’s dream for India, Know your MP series and so on.
The content from the Youtube channel is also hosted on the party’s official website as INC TV. Videos released by the party are brilliant in terms of the concept, storyboarding and direction these videos are bound to make a difference to the overall campaign. The videos contain the key message of growth and prosperity under the reign of UPA Government most of them depict how UPA has touched upon their lives and made a difference. The other set of videos i.e TVC’s talk more about empowering youth and women, how Congress party aims to provide the benefits of plans and policies to the socio economically deprived section of the society. The videos which are based on the series of Fact Check provide a strong assist to the party’s one of the key objectives on Social Media.
In terms of engagement levels on Youtube, the party has a very low value as compared to the other opposition parties despite of the fact that the content on Youtube is very engaging and compelling. This can be attributed to the lesser number of subscriber’s base for the party on Youtube Channel. Still the party has managed to garner 8 million views over such a short span of time which is commendable. Since the party excels in creating rich content for the channel they should work on building a larger community of subscribers for the channel as videos generally have a better impact on the human psyche as compared to images or text.
The official website for Indian National Congress is the hub of all the information regarding the party’s campaign online. The website has a simple design layout with options to change languages from English to Hindi/Urdu. The website contains all the information about Congress from its beginning till date, the leaders associated with the party, mission, vision, inspiration and achievements of the party.
The website houses a resource section which contains documents, press releases, photos, videos, speeches meant to be used by Media, supporters and volunteers for dissemination. The website also reinforces a simple message to Join the party multiple by entering their name and email, mobile number for SMS updates, sharing information given on the website using social networking buttons.
There are several interesting features on the website which are not promoted in the right stead on Social Media. The Primaries section is one of them where in the party lets the citizens of the constituency choose their Congress candidate. The concept is derived from the west but is strengthens party’s proposition which says Voice, Opportunities, Transparency and Empowerment for all.
The Fact Check is solely dedicated to demystifying the claims of growth and development in Gujarat. The section serves two purposes one is listing the party’s version and stand on Gujarat’s Model of Development the other is that it feeds content for the party supporters and volunteers to discuss and debate on several forums.
The Campaign Trail section contains a replica of the flow of party’s campaign online, the party houses all the data, pictures, videos, posts on one central location for those people who are not connected with them on any of the social media networks.
The Get Involved section contains details about the various initiatives by the party to connect and engage the volunteers in an active dialogue. Your voices calls out for thoughts and views over issues concerning general public. INC Youth Manifesto is an initiative to crowd source opinions and suggestions for the Lok Sabha Election Manifesto of the Congress Party.
Join the conversation on Khidkee persuades the supporters to connect with the party owned platform and provides them an opportunity to share their views and opinions with the senior leaders. Donate option provides details on how can you contribute to the party’s fund for electoral campaigns.
Support Us app is similar to the app hosted on Facebook page and is linked with the Join Us feature on the website. The website as a whole serves the purpose and is one of the most comprehensive tools of the party’s digital strategy. The website registers a traffic of 448,600 in the span of last 30 days which is an impressive number.
Khidkee Portal and App
The platform is a window of opportunity to every party member and volunteer to directly communicate with senior leadership, exchange ideas, share thoughts, and voice grievances. The idea behind Khidkee is crystal clear – to promote openness, strengthen the internal communication and facilitate a voice for all within the organization.
An interesting feature in the Khidkee platform is the authentication process for joining the community. Login facility is available for those who are members of the party online on the INC, IYC, NSUI and JNLI others need to request an invite by clicking on a button and entering Name, Address and Email. With this initiative the party is taking every single worker along at every step, and acknowledging their contribution to the party.
Khidkee platform is accessible on mobile in the form of apps hosted on the android play store and apple iTunes store. The Website has a monthly traffic estimate of about 11,300 users and the app for khidkee has registered close to 5000 downloads and enjoys a rating of 4.6/5 on Android Play Store.
Google+, Instagram and Whatsapp
The Indian National Congress leads ahead of the other parties on Google+ this lead comes from the quality and timing of the content delivery. The communication though is exactly similar to Facebook but the party does not want to miss out on any single opportunity to outnumber the opposition as a result the party today has 5110 +1’s and some 1000 people in the circles. Besides, using the basic features the party has never utilized hangouts judiciously.
Congress is the only political party to harness Instagram for connecting with the masses at their preferred social media network. The party has an exceptionally talented content team on board which ensures that the story of Congress is conveyed to the people at the right place, at the right time with the right message.
Congress Party understands the potential of Whatsapp and other mobile networking platforms that is the reason why the party has tried to utilize the functionality of these platforms to 1. Crowd source views, opinions and suggestions on INC Youth Manifesto. 2. Connect with volunteers and supporters to feed them with content regarding the party’s campaign. For that matter the party also has a line extension and BBM Pin to reach out to the niche audiences using Blackberry Phones.
Mentions on Digital Publications
Indian National Congress receives top web mentions from established media websites like Business Standard, Times of India, Economic Times and Indian Express. The party enjoys a fairly positive sentiment from the top three websites and neutral sentiment from the other websites like DNA, Indian Express and Zee News. The negative sentiment in the mentions for the party can be attributed to the rise in corruption scams, inflation and the anti-incumbency factor.
The UPA Government in the recent times has been able to pass Lokpal Bill, Street Vendors Bill, AP Restructure Bill, they have also raised the cylinder cap for a household from 9 to 12 it is because of these welfare reforms the party receives mentions with a positive sentiment.
The online sentiment by date for the party in the last 15 days shows that the party has a neutral sentiment on several occasions owing to the spats between AAP and BJP on social media forums. The positive sentiment for the party was highest on 11th March the day when the party executed the trend #KattarSochNahiYuvaJosh
Overall, Indian National Congress Party enjoys a neutral to positive sentiment online. The neutral sentiment amounts to 70.9%, positive sentiment is close to 12.9% and negative sentiment is 16.2%. Since Social Media is a platform which envisages the right to freedom of speech and expressions due to the equivocal presence of opposition any political party is bound to have a fraction of negative sentiment.
Indian National Congress has left all guns blazing to combat the opponent’s social media strategy and to earn a fair chance of convincing the new voting population to vote in their favor. The multi prong strategy adopted by the party is forthright and focused to specific set of objectives.
The spotlight of INC’s social media strategy is the exceptionally brilliant and engaging content posted across social media platforms. The meteoric rise in the number of followers for the party on the various platforms can be attributed to the highly interactive content and the enthusiastic bunch of supporters and volunteers who have taken the onus upon themselves.
The party has managed to build a community of followers in a short span of time but they really need to strive forward to engage with these followers in an active dialogue nevertheless the recent campaigns done by the party have performed really well especially #RGExposesBJP and #KattarSochNahiYuvaJosh on twitter.
Congress on Social Media is still in the stage of spreading awareness and building a community to connect with at multiple junctures. The party really needs to buckle up and introduce campaigns which not only help them to connect but to engage with the online voting population.
An integration between offline and online campaigns is imperative for the party’s success in the coming general assembly elections. Overall, The Congress Party has showcased an extraordinary display with lucid content and a straight forward strategy. This in turn has paved the way for a formidable social media presence for the party.
Is the Congress quest to win over netizens across the country a case of ‘too little too late’ or whether the party has managed to enter ‘just in time’ only time will tell till then let’s just sit and observe what these political parties have in store for the Indian social media populace.